Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why has been sitting on my to-read shelf since Christmas and after reading an ARC of Random by Tom Leveen (see previous posting x2), I decided it was time to push it up the list. 13RW follows Clay Jensen after he receives a mysterious package with no return address; the package contains a series of tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah Baker, nothing shady about that right? Wrong – Hannah is dead, she committed suicide a few weeks previously. There are seven cassette tapes inside the envelope, each side dedicated to a particular person who had an impact on Hannah’s decision to take her own life, including Clay – 13 reasons why.

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Overall, I really like the novel despite its dark themes. Hannah’s reasons for choosing to commit suicide are deep, dark and intense; her problems go beyond silly squabbles of a typical 16 year old. The novel touches upon bullying, stalking, sexual assault, rape, and unendurable loneliness. I really felt for Hannah, there wasn’t a moment during the story which I thought she was being flippant about her decision. Suicide is an incredibly delicate subject that Asher explores flawlessly. The novel is structured as a back and forth – Clay’s thoughts/reactions interspersed with Hannah’s voice reaching out out beyond the grave. The device can be a little confusing at times but overall was well executed. Asher really brings Clay’s pain to life as he battles anger, sadness, and heartache over Hannah’s death.

So not unexpectedly, there were a few moments of sniffles throughout the story. The most heart wrenching moment for me was a random act of kindness by a stranger in a diner as Clay listens to tapes on an old walkman. For some reason in the midst of all the high school bullshit, this one adult without a clue extended some kindness to a struggling kid.

I’m serious. It was only a milkshake. And like I said, I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t know how I can help, but something’s clearly gone wrong in your life, so I want you to keep your money.

Just something about it, the moment just punched my heart.

Hannah records the tapes in the days leading up to her suicide, as she approaches the final tape her tone changes from angry to lonely, sad, defeated.

And you’ll treat me how you’ve always treated me. Do you remember the last thing you said to me? The last thing you did to me?

Even flipping again through the book to her final recording gives me chills.

There is online companion material at 13RWProject.com which I haven’t fully explored but seems to be a great community for fans of the book to connect with each other and talk about its impact and the impact of suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

 

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